Archive for the ‘moralism’ Tag

Mandated Sexual Immorality   Leave a comment

My conversation with Thom Stark is touching on issues that I have touched on before. Rather than say the same thing in different ways, I’m reprinting the articles because I don’t think I can say them better in a different way.



Last year, Masterpiece Cakes in Denver was told by the Colorado courts to bake cakes for gay weddings or stop baking cakes altogether. In August, the New York State Division of Human Rights fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration, ruling that Christianity’s historical belief about marriage is now “discrimination”. Like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Giffords are also required to institute anti-discrimination re-education classes and procedures for their staff.

It is now considered just to force citizens with moral objections to participate in what they consider to be sin if they want to stay in business.

We’ve lost the cultural war, folks. There’s no use arguing the point. My 21-year-old daughter (a Christian) thinks Jesus is fine with homosexuals’ marrying. She even believes that the Bible was tampered with to include anti-homosexual passages. I’m not going to argue with her about it. I’ve given her access to several books that show how reliable the Bible as we have it is and I’ll let God do the rest. Sometimes you have to know when to back off and let the Holy Spirit work.

But these two incidents bring us to a set of questions. Should the government of a “free society” be able to force family businesses to betray their consciences and participate in ceremonies that violate their beliefs? That’s an argument for another day. The more important discussion is – how did we get here?

Christians – how did we get here?

I’ve been posting on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and I suspect the church’s failure to reach our culture on a whole host of such issues is tied to that.

Twenty yeas ago, same-sex marriage was the least of all political concerns. Then Bill Clinton tried to fulfill a campaign promise with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which led to the Defense of Marriage Act. All of a sudden, we entered what historians will one day recall as a cultural revolution greater than anything that happened in the 1960s. By 1993, the cover story of The Nation identified gay rights as the summit and cornerstone of the culture war to forever change America. We’re now in the endgame and conservatives have lost. It is commonly believed that the only reason to oppose same-sex marriage is rank bigotry or for religious reasons and, the argument that follows is, neither of these has any place in determining laws or public standards.

In some ways, it’s a generational thing. Polls show that young people think homosexuality is normal and that opposition to it has the moral status of segregation in the late 1960s. In the 2010 book American Grace, political scientists Robert D. Putman and David E. Campbell noted that there was a marked change in attitudes around 1990. Young adults at the time were accepting homosexuality as a moral in increasing numbers while at the same time, they were falling away from organized religion. Religious disengagement and liberal sexual attitudes appear to go hand-in-hand.

The Pew Research Center’s Greg Smith conducted a 2012 study that showed this interaction as well. He asserted that this current generation is more religious unaffiliated than any on record and that there is no reason to think they will return to church in significant numbers as they age, as had been noted in past generations.

Putnam and Campbell were careful to say in American Grace that correlation is not causation, but they pointed out that the public role many Christian leaders took in opposing gay marriage alienated young Americans from organized religion and suggested that Christian churches would need to liberalize on sexual teaching if we hoped to regain and retain the loyalty of younger generations.

The problem with that suggestion is that Mainline Protestant denominations, which have been far more accepting of homosexuality and sexual liberation in general, are losing membership much more quickly than more tradition conservative denominations that oppose gay marriage and discourage sexual liberation.

Why? Maybe when people decided that historical normative Christianity was wrong about sex, they also decided that everything else was wrong about Christianity. Finding a church that agreed with their liberalism did not solve their basic problem of a lack of faith.

Folks, we’re losing the culture and it has almost nothing to do with gay marriage. That is a symptom, not a cause.


Looking for Excuses   2 comments

Hi, my name is Rose. Lela and I go back more than 20 years. We’ve been through a lot together and been part of each other’s Christian accountability network on many occasions. We have disciplined each other and others in Christian love without excusing sin.

That’s an important distinction. Neither of us is perfect. We have sinned. I’ve sinned more. I cheated on my husband and that adultery became public. What he might have been able to excuse in private, he found himself unable to forgive when it became public and he divorced me. It wasn’t as simple as that. We took over a year to come to that point. We were both Christians who had made a covenant with God before the church. We didn’t believe in divorce, but James couldn’t continue to live with me. He was well within Biblical grounds to divorce me and he is also free to remarry. Neither of us has done that. Although I can’t speak for James, I know that I will not remarry.


Because two sins do not balance each other out. When I broke my vow to James and my covenant with God, it did not dissolve God’s covenant with me. I agreed to be wife to James in God’s grace for my lifetime. God accepted that vow and it did not change because James and I decided we couldn’t stand to live together any longer. To seek physical happiness in another adultery would not excuse my first adultery. It would compound it. When I committed adultery, the man I had the affair with was unmarried, but he was still an adulterer because he was having sex with a married woman. Like it or not, I have a part in his sin. I can’t say “he made his own choice” or, worse, excuse my own sin by saying he came onto me. It does not make me innocent. It merely excuses my sin. Remarrying, either to the man I had the affair with or another, would be nothing less than trying to cover up my sin in the same way that David tried to cover up his sin by marrying Bathsheba.

The other reason I won’t remarry is because a part of repentance is accepting the consequences of my sin, which is that I will likely spend the rest of my life alone. Would I like things to be different? Yes! I obviously have a libido. And if James ever finds it in his heart to forgive me and reunite, I know that I will deserve it this time. Still, I accept the consequences of my sin. Being faithfully single has really not harmed me and it has taught me many valuable lessons.

“Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, Sthat just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin). Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness,but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 5:20-6:14)

That God forgave my sin, both when I became a Christian and for later transgressions, does not give me permission to sin. My sin required grace (God’s unmerited favor) to forgive. Paul explained that the greater the sin, the more grace expands to cover that sin, but we shouldn’t sin expecting more grace. Instead, we should recognize that sin is a work of our former dead selves. As we are now alive in Christ, we should not let sin use our bodies to indulge its desires. When I gave my body to unrighteousness, I acted like someone who had not been enlivened by Jesus, but as if I did not know God at all. I had a choice, but I chose wrongly. I’d been reborn under grace, but when I allowed sin to have mastery of my will, I was showed guilty by the law.

And that’s the important thing to understand. Christians do not live under the law, to follow every jot and iota of it to judge our worthiness for salvation. We live under grace. We were saved by grace … our sin set aside by God’s forgiveness, by the grace that He provided through His own sacrifice on the cross. Christians don’t obey God’s will out of fear that we will somehow be found wanting and left outside Heaven. We don’t obey God’s will in hopes of earning His favor. We obey God because we are grateful for what He already did for us out of His love for us. But when we — when I — disobeyed God by committing adultery, I did more than just affect my life and those directly connected to me. Over the years since, I’ve come to realize how many unbelievers who heard of what happened took my actions as an excuse to ridicule other Christians and to scoff at the Church and God. When Christians act contrary to what God has taught in the Bible, our actions reflect negatively on Him and cause non-Christians to reject the gospel message.

I know I’ve been forgiven of adultery because I’ve asked for forgiveness and God always takes our repentance, even if my husband does not. I’m sorry for what I did, but I don’t feel guilty. When I think that there would be people out there who took my actions as an excuse to reject God’s salvation, though …

Finally, the last thing I would say is that I’ve been a member of three churches since I cheated on my husband. People know. It was public knowledge and I don’t hide from it. I’ve given my testimony in church. Although Christians cannot actually extend grace to others (grace is God’s gift to give, not ours), I have never felt judged and I think that is because I do not excuse my sin. Yes, there are things James could have done differently. Yes, my church at the time had a hand in what happened. A counselor I was seeing at the time also contributed to my temptation. The culture I was raised in encouraged my mind in that direction. The man I sinned with certainly had a hand … but I am the one who sinned.

It is as simple as that. By not excusing my sin, I allowed grace to abound … and God saw to it that it did.

What David Has to Say to the 21st Century Churches   4 comments

You’re getting a double-feature today because someone chose to question what I presented God’s word in What’s So Wrong with Second Marriages?

King David was a Israelite with a heart for God. For much of his life, he strove to do God’s will to the utmost of his ability and God used that strength of character to build the nation of Israel into a strong land known for its reliance on their curious One God. David wasn’t perfect. He was still human and in 2 Samuel 11, it is recorded that he committed adultery with the wife of one of his captains. When she became pregnant by David, he recalled her husband Uriah from the battle field in hopes that he would have sexual relations with Bathsheba and she could claim the child was his. Uriah was an honorable soldier who followed a rule of celibacy during the summer season of war, so there was no way for David and Bathsheba to hide their sin.

David then ordered Uriah into the heat of a battle where his death was guaranteed. When Uriah was killed, David announced his mercy on Uriah’s wife and married her.

Problem solved, right? I mean, God never said David was wrong for this. There were no consequences for adultery, lying and murder. Uh … well ….

Nathan was the prophet of the Lord and God spoke to him and told him to go speak with David. This was not without risks. The prior king had been known to fling spears at servants who displeased him. Nathan was being called upon to confront the most powerful man in his country, a man with lethal battle skills, who had ordered the murder by subterfuge of one of his most valuable captains.

Nathan knew that if he didn’t couch this confrontation appropriately, he could end up in a mass grave somewhere, so he told David a story about two men — one rich and one poor. The poor man had nothing but a lamb that he loved and the rich man took that lamb and ate it at a feast. This tale angered David — who was a righteous man at heart – and he ordered that the rich man had to pay the poor man four times what the lamb had been worth.

“Nathan said to David, “You are that man! This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I chose you to be king over Israel and I rescued you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house,and put your master’s wives into your arms. I also gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all that somehow seems insignificant, I would have given you so much more as well! Why have you shown contempt for the word of the Lord by doing evil in my sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and you have taken his wife as your own! You have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. So now the sword will never depart from your house. For you have despised me by taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own!’ This is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to bring disaster on you from inside your own household! Right before your eyes I will take your wives and hand them over to your companionHe will have sexual relations with your wives in broad daylight! Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight.’” (2 Samuel 12:7-12)

David, unlike so many in the churches today, repented immediately and acknowledged his sin, especially that it was against God. Nathan promptly told him of God’s forgiveness for his crimes against God. But it wasn’t over there.  David lost four of his children as a result of his sin with Bathsheba and one of his most trusted captains helped his son lead a rebellion against him.

David was still called a man after God’s own heart, but David sinned and he faced the consequences for his sin. They were grave. They were painful. And, they were public. Even though very few people knew what had transpired between David and Bathsheba, the whole nation watched while Absalom rebelled against his father with help from David’s own men.

And we don’t think God will do the same for the churches?

Are we really that arrogant?

What’s So Wrong with Second Marriages?   8 comments

The churches of America are fraught with blind spots — new “theologies” that blind us to God’s will. One of these blind spots is the idea that if one marriage fails, there’s nothing wrong with marrying someone else. While, it’s wrong to commit adultery with someone while you’re married to another person, once you’re divorced, it’s fine to remarry someone else.

When Amy Grant announced the breakup of her first marriage and began appearing in public with Vince Gill, many wondered whether she and Vince had committed adultery while she was still married to her first husband. Amy strongly denied committing adultery and insisted that she and Vince had just been very close friends until after her marriage ended. She and her fans apparently agreed that it would have been bad for Amy to sleep with Vince Gill while she was married to someone else. She and most of her fans also agreed that it wouldn’t be so bad for Amy and Vince to get together once the divorce was final.

But what does Jesus say? “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery“ (Mark 10:11—12).

Oh-oh! That sure looks like Jesus said if someone divorces without biblical grounds and remarries, it’s beside the point to ask whether there was adultery before the divorce. The decision to find a new mate is itself adultery. Jesus said that.

In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul acknowledged that there may be marriages where husband and wife are so at odds with each other, so fed up with each other, that they can’t live together, let alone have loving sex together. In such cases, separation might not be as bad as daily strife. Separation may be the lesser of two evils, but even if separation is considered necessary, that does not make it moral to get a final divorce and find a new spouse. In 1 Corinthians 7:10—11, the Bible says to Christian couples, “A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.“ The ideal is not to separate at all, but if you feel you must live apart, you have two choices: stay single or reconcile to your spouse.

Speaking pragmatically, if remarriage were not an option, there would be far fewer divorces in the first place. A great many marriages would not come to an end and a great many wounded relationships would heal if the only choices were to reconcile or remain single. Many people would rather struggle in a hard marriage than be alone. But when the possibility of finding someone else and remarrying enters the picture, there’s much less incentive to do everything possible to save an unhappy marriage. Sometimes a marriage breakup is a direct consequence of adultery by one partner. But even when adulterous acts haven’t yet occurred, just the thought of finding someone who could make you happier than your present spouse can weaken your resolve to keep your vows.

Amy Grant is a prominent example of this problem. She denied committing adultery with Vince Gill and said her friendship with him was not the reason her first marriage ended. She said: “I didn’t get a divorce because I had a great marriage and then along came Vince Gill. Gary and I had a rocky road from day one. I think what was so hard—and this is what one of our counselors said—sometimes an innocent party can come into a situation, and they’re like a big spotlight. What they do is reveal, by comparison, the painful dynamics that are already in existence. Through all of that process in my life, Vince was a friend of mine.“

Take a closer look at this statement. Amy said she didn’t really know how bad her marriage was until she became close with someone else, made a comparison and decided the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.

It’s important to remember that Christian marriage is not a contract between two people. It is a covenant between each partner and God that results in a covenant between the two partners before the church. The 10 commandments make it clear that God is a jealous God who wants no competitors and the New Testament teaches us that marriage is a metaphor for the Christian relationship with God. Part of the traditional marriage vow includes the words “forsaking all others.“ That’s not popular language among modern marriage counselors, but it fits biblical teaching. When you marry somebody, you forsake all other prospects for marriage. If you don’t forsake all others and disallow all possibility for a new and happier marriage, that “escape clause” is like acid eating away at your present marriage.

Whether or not hopes for a happier second marriage hasten the end of many first marriages, the fact remains that Jesus says, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her“ (Mark 10:11). Jesus also says, “Anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery“ (Matthew 5:32). Unless the divorce fits the biblical exceptions, remarriage violates the way of Christ. If you decide to divorce your spouse, it is adultery for you to remarry. Even if you don’t want a divorce but your spouse divorces you, it is adultery for you to remarry unless a biblical exception is involved. I’m speaking to Christians here. Please understand that.

This means that if a husband chooses to end a difficult marriage, the wife can’t say, “Well, I didn’t want the divorce, but now that it’s come to that, I’m at least free to find a new man.“ A man who meets the newly divorced woman can’t say, “Great! She’s available, and I want her.“ If a marriage ends simply because of incompatibility, it is adultery to remarry. Christians, here that!

There are two biblical exceptions which would allow divorce and remarriage. The first exception is if one spouse is already guilty of sexual unfaithfulness. In that case, the one-flesh union has been violated. Jesus allows (but does not require) the betrayed spouse to end the marriage and to eventually remarry someone else (Matthew 5:32, 19:9). The second exception is when a non—Christian spouse abandons a spouse who has become a Christian.

In 1 Corinthians 7:12—16, Paul discussed this scenario. At the time the New Testament was written, you could get in big trouble for becoming a Christian, and your spouse might be persecuted along with you, even if they didn’t share your faith in Christ. If they didn’t want to face the trouble, they might want to get out of their marriage to you. It could also be just plain upsetting to a pagan for a spouse to suddenly become a follower of Jesus. This happens even today. I know a few divorced friends whose spouses left them for becoming Christians or for renewing a long-dormant faith. In Paul’s day, some non-Christians chose to abandon and divorce spouses who had become Christians. Paul, speaking in the authority of Christ, said that these Christians were not bound by their previous marriages. This freed them to start over in a new marriage to a fellow believer.

Still, in cases where the unbelieving spouse was willing to continue the marriage, the Bible says that the Christian partner must not seek a divorce. If there was a choice to end the marriage, it must be the unbelieving spouse, not the follower of Jesus, who sought the divorce. “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound is such circumstances“ (1 Corinthians 7:15). The phrase “not bound“ is, in the original language, a technical term for being free from a marriage and available to remarry.

God permits you to divorce and remarry if you spouse has been sexually unfaithful or if your spouse rejects your faith in Jesus and abandons you, but if you divorce for any other reason, then to remarry is to commit adultery.

I can think of at least five remarried couples who are Christians in my church alone. What do you do if you remarried under the mistaken modern belief that it was okay and then find out that it’s not okay with God? Is it ongoing adultery to remain in the second marriage? Must you leave the person you remarried?

There’s a saying — two wrongs don’t make a right. You can’t undo one wrong by committing another wrong. If you’ve remarried and made Christian vows, keep those vows. Be the best spouse you possibly can in your new marriage. But don’t pretend that your decision to divorce and remarry was just fine if the Bible says it wasn’t. Admit your sin to God, and ask Him to forgive you for the sake of Jesus’ blood. Press on to do God’s will from this point forward.

There is a temptation here that you shouldn’t fall into. Christians are forgiven of our sins and we can ask Jesus daily to remove the sins we collect along the way, but knowing, deliberate sin not part of God’s will, Christians. It’s not okay to decide to end one marriage, remarry and then ask God’s forgiveness for your adultery and continue forward as if it was fine. That’s a soul-killing game to play. If you harden your heart to Jesus now, how can you be sure your heart will soften later? The gospel of forgiveness is good news, but it is not a guarantee that you can do as you please and get away with it. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord“ (Hebrews 12:14).

I don’t want to minimize the pain of difficult marriages. No doubt there will be those reading this who will say what I’ve written is legalistic and cruel. My aim is not to open old wounds or to heap guilt feelings on people for past sins that have already been confessed and forgiven. I want God’s Word about divorce and remarriage to be clearly understood. The world is watching us, Church, and when we act as if God’s will is subject to revision by cultural norms, then we change Who God is for them. We turn Him into a god of our own design, nothing more than the idol they think He is. If God is Who we say He is, then He doesn’t change with the times and we Who have accepted His grace do not have the option of changing His mind for Him. Once His will is understood, we must seek not only God’s forgiveness but also His cleansing and his power to obey.

What Jesus Said   Leave a comment

It’s popular today to say that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, so it must be just all right with Him.

For we, as Christians, pay particular attention to the words of our savior. Jesus said nothing regarding homosexuality, and in his ministry spoke more about the sins fo the spirit than the sins of the body. …Our reading of the Bible in its entirety is one of a loving, forgiving and nurturing God who wants us to help create a world that accepts and empowers us all.” (Letter to the editor, (Episcopal) Rev. Penelope Duckworth, Stanford Daily March 1990).

That’s true. Homosexuality is not specifically addressed in the four gospels. However, to assume that Jesus was neutral on the subject ignores a mass of indirect evidence to the contrary. It is Biblically sound to say that God’s love and grace is available to gay men and lesbians. Jesus extended mercy and forgiveness to men and women from all walks and circumstances of life. For example, turn to John, Chapter 8.

“Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?’ This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.'” (John 8:1-11)

A few things are clear here. Jesus released this woman from all past and future condemnation while at the same time silencing the self-righteous, prudish arrogance of the Pharisees. But don’t ignore His last statement to the adulterous woman: “go, and do not sin again.” The gift of forgiveness and reconciliation Jesus granted to this woman required that she mend her ways and lead a different lifestyle thereafter. It wasn’t that she hadn’t sinned. It was that He forgave her sin upon condition that she in faith did not continue in sin.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16-19)

Jesus demonstrated a similar depth of compassion regarding divorce, but He firmly endorsed the central importance of marriage in society:

“Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.’

“The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.'” (Matthew 19:1-12)

Jesus implied marriage was for life and divorce only permitted under the exception of adultery. The disciples were startled at the standards Jesus indicated when He quoted Moses as authoritative. A single life might be better, they said. Jesus responded that a celibate, single life, “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” was acceptable.

Jesus made no mention of homosexuality as a third option for those who might have been “born that way.” He didn’t suggest that all have a right to choose their own “sexual preference.” He did not give us the slightest reason to believe that every individual has a God-given “right” to his or her body, to do with it what we wish. Instead, he presented a picture of marriage which is at times difficult and demanding, but is the only relationship where sexual expression meets with God’s approval. Those who prefer to remain single are to live as “eunuchs,” that is without expressing their sexual desires.

One reason Jesus said nothing specifically about homosexuality is that “gay lifestyles” were virtually unknown in Israel in His day. It’s always important to remember that Jesus lived in a culture. While God was certainly aware of the larger Greco-Roman cultural practices, Jesus’ audience was not. Everyone knew and understood the acceptable standards of their culture. Even suggesting heterosexual activity before marriage was scandalous enough that Joseph almost put Mary away for becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-24)

Despite what some folks want to believe today, Jesus didn’t come to set aside the Old Testament and the Law of Moses. When He argued with the Pharisees and scribes, it was always over their extra-Biblical rules (a complicated web of taboos and strictures that circumscribed every action of daily living), not the actual Law of Moses. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)

Jesus invariably upheld the authority and applicability of the teachings and Law of Moses. In fact He interpreted Moses in a manner which intensified the demands of the Law, that moved it from being a physical morality to being an inward holiness. It’s important to understand that the Law reveals the moral character and the holiness of God, attributes which do not change. The purpose of the Law of Moses was not and is not to produce good moral behavior, but to call all of us to understand our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness:

“…a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

Let the Dead Bury the Dead   Leave a comment

One day Jesus invited a man to follow Him and become His disciple—but the man refused. He said he would follow Jesus later, but first he wanted to go bury his father. Jesus responded, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22).

What did Jesus mean by that?

It brings up a rather ludicrous image of zombies burying dead people, if I approach it completely with my rational, human mind. That wouldn’t make sense, of course. We all know that the physically dead don’t do much, let alone bury others who are also dead. So, Jesus must have been talking about something else.

If you accept that Jesus is God (which is a prerequisite for being a Christian), it’s pretty easy to figure out what Jesus meant in this statement. He was talking about the spiritually dead — those who are alive physically, but unregenerated at the spiritual level and therefore, not alive unto Christ, but dead toward God in their souls. We can be strong and virile physically and still be spiritually dead, which is a much more serious condition than on death’s door.

There are those who might think Jesus was incredibly harsh to this man, but that’s because they (or we) do not understand what the man was really saying to Jesus. In 1st century Jewish life, to say “I want to go bury my father” did not necessarily mean Papa had ceased to breathe. It meant that they wanted to stay with their father until he died. That could be years away. This man was simply excusing his avoidance of becoming Jesus’ disciple.

Christians. we all have some dead man still clinging to our boots as we try to follow Jesus. We all have excuses for hanging back. I don’t want to insult the people I know who are not Christians, so I’ll not say what I know to be true about the sin they are living in. That’s my dead man, btw. I’m a lot bolder here than I am in my personal life when I might hurt someone I care about.

And, no, I am not calling for laws to legislate morality. Get over that, Church! It’s not our world any longer! I suspect we’ve done great harm to the cause of Christ by fighting to force others into our mold.



I am call for honesty with the world and Christians living the way we know God wants us to live. Yeah, that puts us at odds with the world around us and that will be uncomfortable. The world is becoming more secular and less moral everyday and very comfortable with redefining morality to its own design. The clarion call of society is “Christians, change with the times.”

But Jesus’ call to us hasn’t changed. “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Anything less is hanging back making an excuse for not following Him!

For the Love of Happiness   Leave a comment

Blind spot ignorance causes a lot of car accidents and they’ve wrecked many a Christian life. The blind spots that are common among the churches today involve sexual immorality, including adultery.

Make no mistake. God makes a Christian marriage and when both partners are Christians, there is no divorce recognized. You can dissolve the human contract, but not the covenant made between you and God.

Amy Grant exhibits the blind spots of our modern society as it affects the churches and so, it may seem unfair, but she’s the example we’re going to use. When Amy divorced Gary Chapman, she explained that she didn’t take divorce lightly. They’d been through lots of marriage counseling and it just hadn’t produced what she had hoped it would produce. Chapman didn’t want the divorce, saying he was an old-fashioned guy who believed marriage ended with death do us part – a quaint notion found in Romans 7:2-3. “By law, a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adultress.”

Chapman held to this standard, believing it to be spiritually healthy, while Grant felt the main point of marriage is thriving together and enjoying one another. She quoted a counselor who told her that “God didn’t create this institution of marriage so He could just plug people into it. He provided this so that people could enjoy each other to the fullest.” Grant took this as permission to end her marriage.

Removing the marriage as a pathway to happiness for the individual sounds like really pragmatic advice, until you look at the facts. Large scale studies have compared unhappy spouses who divorced or seperated with unhappy spouses who chose to stay in unhappy marriages and found no great difference between the two groups in terms of happiness.Researcher Maggie Gallagher observed:

[M]ost of the unhappy spouses who avoided divorce did not stay trapped in misery. Two-thirds of unhappy spouses who stayed married ended up happily married five years down the road.” Most unhealthy, unhappy marriages heal and become happy only if both spouses are committed to hang in there long enough to work through their differences.

The counseling profession includes some compassionate, wise, Bible-based therapists, but (my observation based on 15 years in the field), many counselors do more harm than good. Some see divorce not as a problem but as a normal event.

“It is time to move beyond thinking about the divorce rate as an indicator of a social disorder that must be reduced. Divorce should be regarded as one of the “normal social events in the life course of modern families.“ (William Pinsof, a marriage therapist and editor of a journal on family counseling)

Such thinking is too common among marriage counselors. Maybe that’s why marriage counselors themselves have a divorce rate that is higher than almost any other profession. Why work to preserve a marriage if you see divorce just one of those “normal social events“ that modern families ought to expect?

Christians should know that God hates divorce, but do we understand the full reason why? It’s not because divorce is painful  to spouses and children. It is! My husband went through five divorces with his parents. Trust me, it’s painful! But that’s not the reason why God hates divorce. Remember, He is more interested in your character than your comfort.

God hates divorce because divorce defies God’s commands and breaks a solemn covenant designed to demonstrate God’s own faithfulness and love of Jesus Christ for His church. Marriage is about more than helping two individuals flourish and be happy together. That’s a side blessing when and if it happens.

Marriage is about being faithful to each other no matter what, out of obedience to God and a desire to reflect His faithfulness in our own lives.

Therefore, a marriage is not finished just because one or both spouses is unhappy. It’s not done because a number of counseling sessions occurred without doing much good. A marriage begins with a vow before God and with two bodies becoming one flesh. God designed the one-flesh union of sex and He expects us to take it seriously.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6 – that’s Jesus speaking). God takes sexual union seriously. He also takes promises seriously. “It is better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not protest. My vow was a mistake. Therefore, stand in awe of God,” (Eccleasiastes 5:5-7)

If marriage is just a matter of happiness and friendship, then why bother promising to be faithful “for better or for worse, till death do us part“? Why not say instead, “I promise to stay with you as long as you make me happy and we feel like friends, and as long as we don’t have problems too serious for counseling to cure.“ If that’s how we really see marriage, then we should say so and not make false vows. We should say what we mean, and mean what we say. If we promise “till death do us part,“ we had better mean it.

The modern mentality, fostered by many counselors and therapist, says that marriage should continue only if both partners are enjoying each other and flourishing together. In this mentality, we assume that the only way a marriage can last is if it brings enough happiness and doesn’t bring too much struggle. We also assume that if we do have trouble and spend some sessions with a counselor, then we’ve done just about everything that can be expected, and if we’re still not happy, it’s time to end the marriage and move on. This mentality is a huge blind spot for many people. It’s out of tune with God.

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